Excuse me for posting this recap in the morning instead of last night, but as I went to sleep for a few hours, I was still thinking about the episode. It’s not my favorite of the season by any means, but it’s one that demanded a little extra reflection.
One of the most difficult things about an ensemble show like “Lost” is making sure that every character is well-served, and as much as I love “Lost,” it doesn’t always pull off that task as well as it should. If there’s any character out of the main ensemble who feels adrift most often, it would be Sayid Jarrah, played by the unflappably cool Naveen Andrews.
Traditionally, whenever there is nasty work to be done, Sayid is the character that the show turns to, drawing on his past with the Republican Guard in Iraq as justification for letting him do what no one else will. This week, all of that nasty seems to catch up to Sayid, and the entire episode essentially becomes one man’s struggle between the devil and the angel on his shoulders, leading to one of the season’s best endings, a moment that perfectly dramatizes one of the oldest questions people ask about time travel.
“If you had a time machine, would you go back to when Hitler was a kid and kill him before he ever got started?”
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It’s a provocative question because it appeals to our best natures and our worst natures at the same time. It would be amazing to somehow excise the cancer of the Holocaust completely out of the 20th Century, but it would require a cold-blooded murder in order to accomplish it, and beyond that, it’s a Band-Aid at best, since we know there’s so much other evil in the world. You could never wipe it out… at best, you’d postpone it or, by creating a vacuum where Hitler used to be, you might open the door to something worse, something you can’t even imagine at this point.
Besides… how many people, when faced, with the reality of the situation, could actually do it? It’s one thing to say, “I’d kill him when he was a kid, so he could never do anything bad.” It’s another thing to actually look that kid in the eye and pull the trigger. You’ve got to be wired a certain way, and that’s where Sayid Jarrah comes in. He’s wired that way. And more than that… he knows the exact personal toll that will be exacted by Benjamin Linus in our timeline.
The entire episode is a showcase for Andrews, and it’s a nice reminder of just what a strong asset he’s been to the series since the start. Sayid has been in moral free-fall for a while now on the show, and this seems like a direct follow-up to last year’s “The Economist,” where we first saw that it was Ben he was working for, killing all of Widmore’s important employees one by one. Here, we see more of the relationship between Ben and Sayid, and it’s very spider-and-the-fly. Ben’s great mistake here, though, was using Sayid in the first place, because what we’ve learned over the greater arc of the series is that Sayid is not a weapon for other people to use lightly. There’s always going to be blowback, and in this case, causality may be flowing in a different direction than chronologically normal, but payback is still a bitch.
I’m really enjoying our time with the Dharma Initiative on the show. This week, we had all sorts of familiar names and faces stepping forward. Goodspeed and Radzinsky, of course, but also we get a little face-time with Ben’s father, who once again proves to be sort of a mega-jerk. I’m intrigued by the introduction of Oldhman (William Sanderson), who appears to be the shaman for the Dharma Initiative, living in a tent away from everyone else, and always ready with a holster full of powerful psychoactive substances. His interrogation of Sayid leads to some of the best moments for Andrews all year, as he rambles and laughs and tells them the absolute truth even if they’re not equipped to make sense of it. I love when he starts rambling about the inner workings of the Dharma Initiative. You could practically hear everyone’s asshole pucker as they realized that someone had been spying on them.
What’s really interesting to me here is the way certain characters seem to have accepted that their situation is what it is, and they are living their lives now, like Sawyer and Juliet. Other characters see all of this as temporary, and so they just skip over the surface, waiting for whatever’s going to reset everything to zero, like Jack and Kate. Which of those is the more sane response to the insanity of time travel? I’d argue that Sawyer and Juliet did the right thing by building real lives for themselves, and I’m curious to see just how far they’ll go to protect those lives they’ve built. Happiness doesn’t come easy for Sawyer, and I’m willing to bet based on his growing frustration with the new arrivals that he’s going to take measures to keep everyone from screwing up this good thing he’s got going on.
But will he go as far as Sayid does in the final moments of the episode? Will the producers of the show let Sayid even go that far? Yes, we saw him put a bullet right into the heart of young Ben Linus, theoretically violating the timeline and one of the show’s major rules, but there’s no way the producers just threw out their own rule without considering carefully what that means. So either Ben’s not dead (the most likely scenario) or Ben has always died in that moment, and Sayid is just playing a part in a much larger game.
Either way, this sets up a pretty wild ride in the weeks ahead. There are a number of questions the rest of this season needs to answer, but so far, it’s been a season of real substance, and each week has got me as engaged as any TV show ever has.
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